Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cheesy Cracker

Next time you're cracking open a beer or uncorking a bottle of wine, forgo the cheese and crackers and turn your eye toward the magnificent hybrid known as the Cheese Straw. This classic aperitif accompaniment is easy to make and can be adjusted to taste. It goes equally well with a Yeungling or a glass of prosecco, and whets the appetite without filling you up. And I've always loved Cheese-Its, so these are slightly classier, homemade version. With some kick, especially if you're a little heavy with the red pepper flakes.

I got the recipe from Aunt Betty about five years ago, and it's been a workhorse ever since. A default finger food for when guests are coming over, since you can make them ahead of time, put them in a cute glass or lay them on a platter, and most everyone loves them. It's a simple recipe: combine cheddar, butter, flour, salt, red pepper flakes and half-and-half; roll the dough into a sheet; cut the dough into strips; bake. Ta-da. Cheese-Its for grown-ups.--S

Cheese Straws

4 oz extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
4 T butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 c. flour (more for rolling dough)
1/2 t salt
1 t crushed red pepper
1 T half-and-half

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, and process on low speed until dough forms a ball. [You might need to add more half-and-half; if so, do it little by little.]
2. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured pin, roll dough to a rectangle 8 by 10" and 1/8" thick. With a sharp knife, cut dough laterally into thin strips, 1/4 to 1/3" wide. Gently transfer each "straw" to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving a 1/4" space between them, and bake 17 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Let cool.

Yield: About 30 straws.

Recipe courtesy of the New York Times

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